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Certificate of Lawful Development

If you require a formal decision as to whether existing or proposed development is lawful, then you can submit an application for a Certificate of Lawfulness. There are two kinds of certificate that can be applied for:

  • Certificates of Lawful Existing Use or Development; and
  • Certificates of Lawful Proposed Use or Development

Certificates of Lawful Existing Use or Development

This procedure allows a person to make a formal application for a certificate to determine whether an unauthorised development has become lawful through the passage of time, and can be continued without the need for planning permission.

A Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development can be obtained where:

  • There has been a continuous use of land or buildings (other than a dwelling) for more than ten years
  • A condition or limitation on a planning permission has not been complied with for more than ten years
  • Building or other operations have been completed for more than four years
  • A building (not land) has been used as a dwelling for more than four years

Obtaining a certificate will have the effect of proving that the development is lawful, and protect the development from enforcement action. Refusal of a certificate may raise questions of whether the applicant should submit a retrospective planning application and/or whether the authority should consider enforcement action.

Certificate of Lawful Proposed Use or Development

A Certificate of Lawful Proposed Use or Development will clarify whether a proposed use or development requires planning permission, or whether a proposed development already has planning permission i.e. permitted development, or is lawful by some other reason. Approval will confirm that the use, operations or other matter applied for would be lawful if carried out in the manner stated in the certificate.

A refusal will point to the need for an application before the use, operations or other matter, are undertaken.

How the assessment is undertaken

These are not planning applications. The planning merits raised by these applications are not for consideration. It is simply a technical assessment made using evidence, fact, and legal consideration of the permitted development rights. For householders, the government's technical guidance is helpful.

Certificates for proposed use cost 50% less than a planning application. See more information on planning fees.

Submit an application for a certificate of lawful development.

Your certificate application must provide sufficient factual information for the authority to decide the application. It is important to note that the onus is on the applicant to prove the case by supplying sufficient clear and precise evidence to satisfy the authority that a certificate should be granted. If the evidence provided with the application is considered to be inadequate, then the application is likely to be refused on the basis of lack of evidence. This would not prevent a further application should more clear and precise evidence become available.